HoR approves public sector salaries for 2021 budget, still unhappy with remaining budget
On 24 May, the House of Representatives (HoR) held a session in Tubruq to discuss the revised budget of the Government of National Unity (GNU). The HoR approved the first item in the revised budget, which will provide 34.7 billion LYD to pay salaries for public-sector employees. The HoR’s spokesman, Abdullah Belhaq, stated that the HoR approved the creation of a committee to review the draft budget and that the GNU Minister of Finance Khaled Mabrouk should attend the HoR to respond to members’ concerns and help resolve the remaining budget items.
During the session, HoR members criticised the GNU for presenting a revised budget that has many of the same features as the original draft, namely, that it remains too high for an interim government (at 93 billion LYD), lacks any details, and has not been amended to include the concerns raised by the HoR. In particular, many members were unhappy that the projects and development chapter remained in the budget, despite the HoR seeing this as inappropriate for a temporary interim government.
It is likely that the public-salary chapter of the budget was approved to avoid the suffering of ordinary Libyans that would have resulted if the HoR refused to pass this chapter or insisted on reducing it. However, it is not clear whether this chapter can or will be released without agreement on and approval of the rest of the budget. The HoR will have been irritated that the GNU failed to lower its budget proposal significantly, thereby reducing the HoR’s potential future bargaining power. In addition, and more importantly, the HoR is likely to be holding off from finalising the budget while the placement of appointments to Libya’s semi-sovereign institutions is still being thrashed out. The HoR wants to see its favoured candidates appointed as a quid pro quo for approving the budget. It is possible that they may come to an agreement next week but, given the personal and political dynamics involved in the three-way negotiation between the HoR, HCS, and GNU, it is far from guaranteed that they will be able to achieve agreement in a relatively short space of time.